A couple of weeks ago I heard a piece on the radio about a more traditional approach to cooking, one that focuses on technique rather than exact recipes. Ken Albala, history professor and co-author of The Lost Art of Real Cooking described for example, how easy it is to make bread without using store-bought yeast. It seems that flour and water stirred together and left alone will attract the wild yeast that reside everywhere. Who could resist the temptation to put such a premise to the test?
So last weekend I whisked together my starter. Albala also mentioned that the powdery substance on the outside of fresh grapes is none other than yeast (who knew?), so I tossed a few seedless reds into the mixture and pushed it to the back corner of the counter. As recommended, every morning I fed it some more flour and water to prevent the alcohol from overwhelming the growing yeast population. My brew bubbled and foamed, and this morning I kneaded in some more flour and water with a pinch of salt, still finding it hard to have faith that the dense dough would rise without that little yellow packet of Fleischmanns.
This evening I can report success! I wrangled that wild yeast into the prettiest little loaf of bread around. It had a crisp crust outside, a moist, chewy texture inside, and it was delicious.
And in just a couple of weeks my saurkraut will be ready, too.